Fear of flying (amongst pilots)

July 30th, 2014

FlyingAlthough there are a good number of academic papers which examine ‘fear of flying’, [recent example] the number of scholarly dissertations which cover ‘fear of flying’ amongst a specific subset of air travellers – viz. pilots – is very low. Perhaps just one.

May we recommend the work of aviation practitioner, aviation historian, aviation philosopher, author and lecturer, Andrew Beniger – whose treatise : ‘Significant role of civilizations on fear of flying amongst flight deck’ was presented at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s 3rd World Conference on Fear of Flying, Montreal, 2007


Beginning of a new epidemic of penile amputations?

July 30th, 2014

A disputed penile amputation in Alabama, USA, faintly echoes an epidemic of penile amputations that happened in the 1970s in Thailand. WVTM television in Birmingham, Alabama, reports:

Attorney for doctors sued in penis amputation lawsuit seeks dismissal, calls case ‘baseless, irresponsible’

BIRMINGHAM, AL - Court documents filed today call into question allegations surrounding the amputation of a Birmingham man’s penis last month. The attorney representing the doctors sued in the case has filed for dismissal after testimonies reveal that neither performed a circumcision on the patient.

The lawsuit was filed July 22, 2014 and alleged that while in for a circumcision procedure that the plaintiff’s penis was amputated without his consent or explanation as to why it occurred….

The 2013 Ig Nobel Prize for public health was awarded to Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde, for the medical techniques described in their report “Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam” — techniques which they recommend, except in cases where the amputated penis had been partially eaten by a duck. [REFERENCE: "Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam," by Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde, American Journal of Surgery, 1983, no. 146, pp. 376-382.] At the Ig Nobel ceremony, Nobel laureate Eric Maskin read aloud the acceptance speech sent by the winners, who were unable to travel to Harvard.

BONUS: It is generally believed that, directly or indirectly, publicity about the Thai epidemic inspired the 1993 events in the United States that came to be known as “the Bobbitt case.”

UPDATE (July 30): Investigator Ivan Oransky alerts us to a newly published study:

Penile Prostheses and the Litigious Patient: A Legal Database Review,” Peter L. Sunaryo, Marc Colaco and Ryan Terlecki [pictured here], Journal of Sexual Medicine, epub July 29, 2014. The authors are at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Wake Forest School of Medicine. They examined 40 cases:

Terlecki-Ryan“There were 23 (57.5%) cases that were found in favor of the defendant, while 17 (42.5%) cases led to indemnity payment to the plaintiff including two cases (5.0%) that were settled out of court and 15 (37.5%) favoring the plaintiff in front of a jury. The mean settlement received was $335,500 compared with the mean indemnity award of $831,050 for verdicts decided in favor of the plaintiff (P = 0.68). The most common breach of duty was error in surgical decision making, present in 20 cases (48.8%). Informed consent was an issue in 13 filings (31.7%), and postoperative infection was seen in 13 cases (31.7%). In cases that identified the type of implant used, 58.3% were malleable implants, and 41.7% were inflatable devices.”


Like sound-cancelling headphones, kinda sorta, for odors

July 29th, 2014

If you know how noise-cancelling headphones work, you may have wondered whether the same kind of technical trick — producing your own vibrations that exactly cancel out the “noise” vibrations — might somehow work with smells. Twin-brother scientists Kush and Lav Varshney spent some time noodling on that notion. (Thanks to Martin Gardiner for telling me about the Varshneys.)

Kush (now at IBM, formerly at MIT) and Lav (now at the University of Illinois, formerly at IBM, and before that at MIT) have just presented a paper at a scientific conference — the IEEE International Workshop on Statistical Signal Processing — in Australia.

They call their somewhat-refined idea “active odor cancellation”….

—so begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

Pseudoaccomodation in Pseudophakes

July 29th, 2014

If you’ve kept up with the literature about pseudophakes, you are probably already familiar with the study by Plotkinov and friends:

Objective assessment of pseudoaccommodation in pseudophakia” [article in Russian], I.A. Plotnikov, V. M. Sheludenko, and N. P. Narbut, Vestnik oftalmologii, vol. 123, no. 6 (2006): 35-37.

BONUS: Also from the year 2006, Tarek Abd El-Basset El-Naggar’s “Pseudoaccommodation in pseudophakia” [thesis section].

BONUS: A measure of the excitement that had built during the subsequent year: 2007′s “High expectations in pseudophakes fueling expansion in laser vision correction base“.

 (Thanks to investigator Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.)

The tortoise and the touchscreen

July 29th, 2014

wilkinsonIg Nobel Prize winners Anna Wilkinson [pictured here, with a tortoise] and Ludwig Huber have now done an experiment with four tortoises and a touchscreen. (Wilkinson and Huber, together with colleagues Natalie Sebanz and Isabella Mandl, were awarded the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize for physiology, for their study “No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise.”)

The new study is: “Touchscreen performance and knowledge transfer in the red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria),” Julia Mueller-Paul, Anna Wilkinson, Ulrike Aust, Michael Steurer, Geoffrey Hall, Ludwig Huber, Behavioural Processes, vol. 106, July 2014, pp. 187–192. The authors, at the University of Vienna, Austria, the University of Lincoln, UK, the University of York, York, and theUniversity of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, report:

The present study investigated the ability of the tortoise to learn a spatial task in which the response required was simply to touch a stimulus presented in a given position on a touchscreen…. Four red-footed tortoises learned to operate the touchscreen apparatus… The results show that red-footed tortoises are able to operate a touchscreen and can successfully solve a spatial two-choice task inthis apparatus….

Four juvenile red-footed tortoises (Chelonoidiscarbonaria–formerly Geochelone) with plastron lengths of 13 cm(Esme), 13 cm (Molly), 12 cm (Quinn) and 11 cm (Emily), took part in the study. The tortoises’ sex was unknown, as unambiguous sexual dimorphism develops only later in the life of this species.